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Go Back to School for Free

Mary Dalrymple
August 28, 2007

Here at The Motley Fool, we're celebrating back-to-school days with financial advice for parents, kids, and students of all ages. Check out the entire curriculum right here.

The returning student, the mature student, the nontraditional student. They all mean the same thing. You're the old geezer amid a sea of pierced and tattooed whippersnappers who can't imagine how people managed before the iPod.

Even if you're not the coolest guy in the classroom, you've got a few advantages over those young punks. You can get someone else to pay for your education. Consider these ideas:

Work and learn. Remember that employee handbook you got years ago? Dig it out and find out whether your company offers a tuition reimbursement plan. This could be your ticket to a college education or an advanced degree.

Before you go sharpening your pencils, read the fine print. Some companies will refund only a portion of your tuition. Some will put limits on the number of classes you can take. Others will require you study a subject related to your job, or that you stay at the company for a certain amount of time after completing a degree. Know the rules before enrolling.

Change jobs. If you're certain you want to hang a new diploma on your wall in the near future, hunt for a new job that will pay your way. Fortune's annual list of the best companies to work for routinely includes businesses with tuition reimbursement benefits, like General Mills (NYSE: GIS  ) , Genentech (NYSE: DNA  ) , and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) . Be warned if you go to work for Google. According to the company's employee benefits website, you must earn B grades or better. "Why a 'B' or better? Because we said so."

Supply and demand.